Gondolas & North Shore Connections

The North Shore of Minnesota is a feast for the spirit.  When I look out on the thick pine forests, rugged cliffs, and never ending water, all is well within me.  In a way, the beauty reminds me of who I am.

When I published my post “Thoughts From a Cold Boulder” last month, I thought that was my last time I’d get to see the place that is so dear to me.  Thankfully, I have a mom with connections.  She’s a lobbyist by trade and she represents several communities around the state.  Her job is to use the legislative process to get money to help benefit the well being of her clients.  Often times, this involves boosting tourism.

One of Mom’s biggest clients is Lutsen Mountains, the largest ski hill in the state.  Because of her connections, we were able to take a free two-day ski trip during my Spring Break last March.  Which was AWESOME.

Over the past year, Lutsen has put a lot of money into installing a new gondola.  This investment will (hopefully) bring in more people.  As the largest business in the county, this benefits the entire community.

Yesterday morning, there was a big opening ceremony for the event.  Mom decided to attend and, like the little mooch that I am, I tagged along.

We arrived Thursday night.  Mom was invited to dinner with the owners and the local senator (who is also the Senate Minority Leader and the third most powerful politician in the state).  I ate separately and enjoyed a relaxing evening watching Sleepless in Seattle in our room while she rubbed shoulders with the powerful, influential people of Cook County.

My original goal for tagging along was to go skiing.  I mean, what’s the point of going to the largest ski hill in Minnesota without hitting the slopes?  Sadly, due to an unnaturally warm December, most of Lutsen’s runs were closed.  They were making snow like crazy to be fully open by the weekend… but not in time for us.  No skiing for me.  😦

When the time for the ceremony came yesterday morning, Mom and I made our way to the shiny new gondola platform.  We were stopped and informed that it didn’t open for the general public for half an hour.  Mom quirked her head and goes, “Did Charles and Tom go up already?  We’re with them?”  That’s my mom–name dropping like a pro.

The ride from the platform to top of Moose Mountain was stunning.  They’ve been hard at work making snow and the trees were all coated in a thick layer of white.  The gondola cars have wide windows and we could see for miles and miles.  We were riding through the sky above the winter wonderland all the Christmas songs talk about.

The ceremony itself went very well.  Speeches were made, the ribbon was cut, and everyone moved inside to the chalet for coffee and cookies.  I met Lutsen’s owner and his wife invited us to come up and ski with them.  (Too bad I’m leaving the country in a few weeks…)  I met the important senator.  His wife, Laura, was VERY sweet and spent a long time talking with me.  I also met many of my mom’s Grand Marais work contacts–various business owners and such.

I’ve been attending these kind of events–press releases, grand openings, legislative hearings, etc.–since I was a kid.  I’ve learned to be a fly on the wall, following two steps behind Mom while she talks and makes connections.  I speak if spoken to, but usually stay pretty quiet.

After everything was done, we rode the gondola back down the mountain and headed to Grand Marais for lunch.  We had soup at the town’s coffee shop, then stopped by the home of one of Mom’s friends.  He’s the director of the Cook County Chamber of Commerce and his wife is from England!  We stayed for a long time.  The adults talked while I made friends with one of their huskies–a retired sled dog from Scotland.

It was a long four-hours home, but the drive along Lake Superior was beautiful as always.  We went to Gooseberry Falls State Park to see if the waterfalls were still running (they were!) and made a stop in Duluth for coffee.

I love the North Shore.  When I visit, I’m reminded of who I am.  It’s almost like coming home.  From a young age, the beauty has put roots in my heart and become part of me.  I’m thankful to have had so many opportunities to visit throughout my life.  I don’t know when I’ll be back, which makes me really sad.  But no matter where I go, no matter how much life changes, it’s always there waiting to remind me of where I’m from.

November Thunderstorm

It’s unusual for rain this time of year.  After a beautiful Fall, November waltzes in tossing sleet and snow like a flower girl at a wedding.  It’s a miserable time–no leaves on the trees, dead grass, and no snow to cover the mess.

Tonight, though.  Tonight I’m taking refuge at a friend’s hundred year-old farmhouse.  Rain pounds on the window and thunder rumbles through the bones of the building.  You can feel the rumble through the floorboards.


Thunderstorms are one of my favorite parts of summer.  I love sitting on my front steps with Dad watching the clouds roll in.  When the lightning gets too frequent, we move indoors and listen.

Having a storm in November feels like a belated birthday gift.

Time for tea, a sweater, and a good movie.

Photo from Unsplash
Photo from Unsplash

There Will Come Soft Rains

I heard the weather before I saw it.  The wind blasted against my windowpane, causing it to shake and shudder.  The thing about living on the fourth floor of a building, though, is that weather look worse than it actually is.  When I stepped outside in my blue dress, headed for church, I was pleasantly surprised.  The wind was strong, but not overpowering.  A slight drizzle fell, forming small puddles on the path.

I could smell Spring coming.  And I thought of this poem by Sara Teasdale.


There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;

And frogs in the pools singing at night,
And wild plum trees in tremulous white,

Robins will wear their feathery fire
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;

And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.

Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree
If mankind perished utterly;

And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn,
Would scarcely know that we were gone.


Photo from Google: http://www.paintingsgallery.pro/upload/artists/lipko_andrew_218564/artworks/www.PaintingsGallery.pro_Lipko_Andrew_Spring_Rain_On_The_River_medium_219217.jpg

Hometown Hiking

Over the past week, I’ve rediscovered my outdoorsy self.  Growing up, my parents were always taking us on outdoor adventures.  Hiking, biking, fishing–you name it, we did it.  Summers weren’t complete without camping in the woods of Northern Minnesota and swimming in one of the 10,000+ lakes.

During the school year, I get so bogged down by academia that I forget how beautiful the world is.  I forget about fresh air, sunshine, and the smell of thawing earth as it awakens to Spring.

Filled with vigor from my ski-cation earlier this week, I decided yesterday to go hiking instead of lying around the house all afternoon.  It was a short three-mile loop, but oh, it was worth it.

You see, I live in one of the most beautiful places in the state (after the North Shore, of course).  Five minutes from the border with Wisconsin, the St. Croix River Valley is at my fingertips.

I parked in Taylors Falls, hiked to the top of the bluffs, back down along the cliff face, and back to town via a trail by the river.  Along the way, I stopped to soak in the sunshine and do some reading.

I long for a life of adventure.  I want to do things, meet people, and see the world.  Sometimes, though, it’s good to step back and remember that adventure can be a mere five minutes away.  All you have to do is stop and look for it.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset
View of the St. Croix River from atop the bluffs.
The St. Croix River from the river trail.
The St. Croix River from the river trail.
Taking a break with Tennyson's Idyls of the King
Taking a break with Tennyson’s Idyls of the King

What adventures lie just beyond your doorstep?




Ski Hills, Spring, and Saunas


My entire body is in pain, but oh boy, my soul is happy.  It turns out, downhill skiing does come back to you.  It took a couple hours of practice on the easier mountain for my muscles to remember the movements.  But, after that, I was skiing like a pro.

There’s something about being able to ski that builds confidence.  I mean, it’s kind of a scary sport.  You strap two metal strips to your feet and go down terrifyingly tall, steep hills.  Once you get the hang of it, flying down the slopes feels amazing.

It’s just so classic, you know?  Cruising down the slopes.  Taking the gondola to the other mountains.  Riding up the ski lifts.  Breaking for lunch in the chalet.

And then, when the day is done, the hot tub and sauna beckon.  Oh boy, they feel good.  All the physical strain washes away and you’re so relaxed that it becomes impossible to worry about anything.  I honestly don’t remember the last time I felt so at ease.


We’ve been skiing at the largest hill in Minnesota.  I say hill, but I should actually say hills.  Lutsen is made of four mountains.  It’s up on the North Shore, right on Lake Superior.  Because my mom has connections, we were able to go on the trip at little to no expense.  The high-ups that Mom knows covered our rental gear, lift tickets, and even our accommodations.  our mini-condo is right on the hill.  In the morning, we wake up, strap on our skis, and go.

It’s absolutely gorgeous up here.  When you go down the runs, it’s hard to pay attention to not dying because the view is so spectacular.  Lake Superior stretches out before you as far as the eye can see.  In the afternoon, part of the lake is golden because it reflects the sun.  Every time I went down, all I could do was offer up praise to God for his glorious creation.

Seriously, I cannot get enough of this view!


My one complaint is that it’s been overly warm.  The thermometer reached fifty degrees today.  I’m all for spring–Minnesota winter began in November this year, which was brutal.  But fifty degree days means that snow melts.  Melting snow means it’s harder to maintain control on the slopes.  As this afternoon wore on, the hills got more and more icy.  My mom gave up an hour before I did on account of a hurt knee.

Okay, so you know the part where I said I was skiing like a pro?  That’s kind of lie.  I’m nowhere near Olympic level.  In fact, I fell quite a bit.  It took most of the first day to make it down a run without slipping over.  On the second day, I only fell a handful of times.  Mind you, most of these falls were pretty derpy.  One minute, I’d be doing fine, and the next, my ski caught some loose snow and–plop–down I go.  My favorite occurred on a really steep hill–nearly a straight drop.  Within thirty seconds, I tipped over. Normally, when this happens, I’m able to push myself up and keep going.  This time, though, the hill was so steep that I slid backwards, skis over my head, down to the bottom.

Thankfully, I only suffered two major wipe-outs.  You know, the kind where you fall head first into the snow, flip over, and both skis come flying off.  Although I was a bit battered, I was able to pick myself up and keep going.

It’s my last Spring Break and, oh boy, I’ve been making it count.  The past few days have been amazing.  I love the North Shore.  When you live on the prairie, there’s nothing better than forests, cliffs, and Lake Superior.  I don’t want to go back to Morris, where my senior seminar paper waits to be written.  I only just discovered the joys of skiing and don’t want to stop!  I’m almost sad that winter is almost over, because it means I can’t hit the slopes again until November.

Now that I know how, I don’t want to wait another ten years before I go skiing again.  So, here’s to a great trip and I’ll keep my fingers crossed for going again next year!

Me in the gondola after a long day of skiing!

For more photos of my trip, check out my Instagram page on the right sidebar!



This week’s goal: Avoid a broken leg.

I honor of my final Spring Break, my mom is taking me on a three-day skiing vacation in Northern Minnesota.  You see, she’s got connections with the higher-ups in the local skiing industry and was able to score a free lift pass and free gear rental.  (The Career-Service people are right… Networking really is everything.)

I love being up north, but can’t help feel a bit nervous.  You see, I haven’t gone downhill skiing in nearly ten years.

People keep telling me that it comes back to you, just like riding a bike.

I hope they’re right.

Kissing Snow

My best friend calls it kissing snow.

You know–the kind with big puffy flakes.  The kind that floats gently as you walk hand in hand with your significant other down the street.  You cross under a street lamp and, pausing, steal a kiss.

Minnesota is known for its winter.  Therefore, the fact that it snowed today is neither significant nor important.

But as I sat in the basement of the Humanities building for hours and hours upon end, I watched the fluffy flakes fall and fell into the happy land of my own imagination.  I’ve never experienced the full delight of kissing snow.  Every time it falls, I look forward to the day I have someone to share it with.

So even though snowfall isn’t something out of the ordinary, in the middle of a busy day, it made my heart a little bit lighter.

Campus in the snow. Taken from my University’s Facebook page.



The authenticity of being home

There’s something sacred about being home.  Yes, I’ve only been back in school for two weeks.  But I find myself gravitating back to the place I spent so many years.  I can’t seem to stay away.

Time passes differently here.

At school, the days are organized and structured.  Two hours of class.  An hour of work.  Twenty minutes between lectures.  Two hours until my roommate comes back.  An hour and a half to squeeze in a workout.  Three hours of homework time.  If I’m organized, productive, and lucky enough, I can spend an evening in my pajamas lying around doing nothing.  But, even then, time remains rigid in my mind.  How many episodes of this t.v. show do I have time to watch?  What time do I need to go to bed to get my full eight hours?  When do I need to wake up in the morning in order to increase productivity?  The things my brain does to get me through the day is exhausting.

When I’m home, time is elusive.  I pass from one task to another.  I get lost amid my homework and glance up to find an hour has already passed.  I strap on snowshoes like the hardy Minnesotan that I am and plow through the orchard.  I return to the house, rosy-cheeked and breathing heavily to find I was only gone for half an hour.  I sit at the counter, listening to Mom and Dad make plans to travel somewhere warm and laughing at my brother, and the minutes slide by so quickly I cannot even keep track of them.

My life in Morris feels artificial.  I’m trying to enjoy it for its merits, but really, it all feels like one giant chore.  Plow through another day.  Complete another set of readings.  Endure the tiny apartment.  Smile and be pleasant.  All the while, all I want is to spend my time doing something actually meaningful.  And I long for the comforts and familiarity of home.

It’s a good thing I’ve got so much homework this semester.  When the weekend is over and I have to go back, I’m going to be so busy trying to keep my academic head afloat that time is going to absolutely fly.

Then I can return home one final time and figure out what’s next.

I can’t wait.

A blissful pause

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I’m incredibly thankful for the past few days of peace, rest, and family.  I’m also thankful to finally be able to listen to Christmas music.  (Yes, I’m one of those snobs.)

It really has been a perfect break.

The extended family was here on Thursday and I handled the “So Amelia, what’s next?”question as well as I could.  I ate lots of turkey and mashed potatoes.

On Friday, I finally got the Mother/Daughter shopping day that was supposed to come in October.  We shopped from ten in the morning till four in the afternoon, taking advantage of Black Friday deals.  I also got lunch at Chipotle, which in and of itself is always an answer to prayer.

Our family tradition is to attend the Taylor’s Falls Lighting festival the day after Thanksgiving.  There’s a small parade down the six blocks that make up main street of the small historic town.  At the end of the parade, there is a countdown and all the Christmas lights in town are lit at once.  We also popped in the old one room schoolhouse (the oldest in Minnesota!) to see all the arts and crafts that the local third graders have been working on for the past couple weeks.  My aunt and uncle came to the event with us and, so night ended with soup and cider at our house.

Yesterday, Mom and I took advantage of Support Local Saturday and made the rounds in all the cute little shops in the area.  We found some good Christmas presents for family and friends, as well as delicious homemade fudge.  The afternoon passed curled up on the couch pretending to watch the Gopher/Badger football game.  I say pretending because, while the rest of my family attentively cheered for the Gophers, I sat and read Dracula.

Today marks the end of break.  I’m not looking forward to going back.

Over the past year, I have not been home for more than a week at a time.  It’s always a transition spot, somewhere I go to jump from here to there.  As a result, my room has become a dreadful dumping grounds.  I long to settle for a while, to clean the mess, to organize the stacks of books that don’t fit on the shelves, and lie low for a while.

Two and a half weeks, friends.  Only an Early Modern English recitation, final portfolio, two ten page essays, and two finals standing between me and a month of Christmas bliss at home.  It’s the final stretch.

I’ll survive by overdosing on holiday cheer and covers of Taylor Swift songs…

Twenty Two

I might as well come right out and say it… today is my birthday.

Slogging through six inches of snow was not how I imagined spending my first day of being twenty-two.  But this is Minnesota, and Minnesota does what it wants.

On this day last year, I was in Oxford, England.  How many people can say they spent their twenty-first birthday in Oxford?  (British people aside, that is.)  It was one of the best days I’ve ever had.  I splurged on shopping, toured some of the colleges, and had my first drink at the Eagle and Child pub.  It was quite the adventure, and you can hear all about it (and see pictures!) on my old study abroad blog.

My twenty-second birthday is definitely not as epic, but still has been incredibly special.  My mom came to visit yesterday.  We drove up the road to Alexandria and went antique shopping, wandered around town, and had a special dinner at an expensive restaurant.  We sat eating for several hours, enjoying each other’s company and opening cards and gifts.  The day ended relaxing in her hotel, where we did some online shopping.

I spent the night in the hotel and had the joy of commuting to campus in five inches of snow.  The local school district cancelled everything today, but the University never closes.  I keep telling myself that God just wanted to drop LOTS of natural confetti to celebrate my special day… it’s a nice thought, but not super effective.

Outside of the normal Monday routine, do I have anything special birthday plans?  Not really.  All my normal Monday night events were cancelled due to the ghastly weather.  So it looks like I’ll be staying in and watching movies with the roommates.  It’ll be nice.  I’ll wear comfy clothes, eating goodies, and avoiding homework because…

I’ll also be rocking out to the following song in my head, even though I absolutely loathe it.  But it’s my birthday.  I’m twenty-two.  I’m going to break all my rules.  (Then go back to loathing it tomorrow.)